Climate Week, Many Words, and (Maybe) Action Plans

Climate Week, Many Words, and (Maybe) Action Plans September 19, 2019
The Secretary General appears with youth activists.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has raised the already-high profile of youth climate activists in the lead up to Climate Week.

A preaching that does not point out sin is not the preaching of the gospel. A preaching that makes sinners feel good, so that they are secured in their sinful state, betrays the gospel’s call. – Oscar Romero

Greta Thunberg is the right person at the right time. When congresspersons praise her for her courage, she says, “I don’t want your praise. I want you to do something.” When they say they hear her, she says, “Don’t listen to me. Listen to the scientists.”

Climate Week is a time when we will hear a lot of words. But words of empty praise, assurances that ”we hear you,” and certainly back-patting words about how much we’re doing for the environment (e.g. by  EPA acting administrator  Andrew Wheeler) don’t pass the Oscar Romero test.

Thunberg, with her simple “You’re not doing enough” to Congress, does pass that test. So does Jamie Margolin (“shameful and cowardly” to use other countries’ pollution as an excuse for not acting), who also spoke to Congress. Likewise the parents of young children (and one grandparent) in this video. They aren’t trying to make us feel good

Climate Week Events

Officially, Climate Week runs from next Monday to the following Sunday, but I perceive it starting already with a number of significant events, including:

  • Climate strikes, Friday, September 20. Taking a cue from many Thunberg-inspired school strikes, adults will be joining students, striking for climate tomorrow and next Friday.
  • Youth Climate Summit, September 21. Strong participation by young leaders from the Global South will mark the UN-sponsored event.
  • The Greta Thunberg phenomenon. The Swedish teenager and climate activist arrived on our shores by solar-powered sailboat and is to address the U.N. Climate Action Summit next week. Already she has addressed the Senate Climate Task Force and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She is the most famous but only one of several young climate activists who will be heard from this week.
  • Covering Climate Now. Over 250 news outlets, with a readership of over a billion, have committed to expanding coverage of climate change, including by sharing stories.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called the Climate Summit, beginning next Monday, because the world is failing to meet its commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement. He has indicated he will not be satisfied with self-congratulatory words. Special summit envoy Luis Alfanso de Alba says, “The secretary general has very clearly demanded that all participants identify very concrete measures that can be implemented immediately.”

Guterres says, “Get real”

In order to speak leaders must have a clear climate action plan. Reportedly, Guterres will block countries that support coal and have no ambitious climate plan, such as the United States. That list of blocked states also includes Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and South Africa. Guterres also made it plain he wants countries who speak to commit to either:

  • Be carbon neutral by 2050,
  • Significantly strengthen its Nationally Determined Contribution to emissions cuts, or
  • Make a “meaningful” pledge to the Green Climate Fund to help developing countries reduce fossil fuel use and adapt to changing climate.

An FAQ for the summit envisions:

Global transition to renewable energy, sustainable and resilient infrastructures and cities, sustainable agriculture and management of forests and ocean, resilience and adaptation to climate impacts, and alignment of public and private finance with a net zero economy.

Donald Trump is not attending the Climate Forum. Andrew Wheeler is. So is Greta Thunberg, and she gets to speak.

Image credit: The United Nations

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